Animal Rights: What Do They Mean to You?
By Kristin, age 14, California
Learning about the issue of animal cruelty is a painful process, but I believe that once you know about it, you won't be able to return to supporting the factory farming industry. After I learned about this issue, not only could I ever dream of supporting the industry, it changed me as a person. I feel that knowing this information has greatly enriched my life, making me a more selfless individual.
Until recently I knew almost nothing about the cruel animal treatment happening every day all over the nation. I'll start from the beginning. Three months ago I moved to a house where I could finally get a dog, and so I brought home my Maltese puppy Maisy. Then Oprah did a show about puppy mills, and as I sat in the living room with Maisy crying my eyes out watching these poor animals being treated so horribly I knew I had to do something about it. I started researching puppy mills and animal abuse. I learned a lot about what I could do to help and signed up to volunteer with The Humane Society, but as I read more and more, it became apparent that I was barely skimming the surface of combating animal cruelty.
When I thought about animal cruelty my first thought was pets being abused, but compared to the treatment of farm animals, this was almost mild. The frightening truth about this issue is that hardly anyone knows what goes on behind closed barn doors.
ChickensChickens are much smarter than they are given credit for. In their natural habitat they have friends, recognize each other, love and care for their young, and enjoy full lives, making nests, dust bathing, and roosting in trees, but in a factory farm chickens become factory equipment rather than living beings with feelings and emotions.
Laying hens are put in cages stacked in huge warehouses, with seven or eight in a cage. They are packed in to where they can't even turn around or spread a wing. To prevent the severely stressed birds from pecking at their cagemates they are kept in semi-darkness and their sensitive beaks are cut off without pain medication. The wire cages rub on their feet and bodies, crippling them with pain and causing them to lose feathers and skin.
Over nine billion chickens are raised for meat in sheds each year. Artificial lighting is used to keep the birds eating all the time, so that within only six weeks they are "grown out to processing weight" which causes a severe strain on their joints. An undercover investigation into this industry has revealed that many of these birds suffer from dehydration, breathing problems, heart attacks, bacterial infections, and other serious ailments. When these chickens are slaughtered, they are cut and scalded while still conscious. A recent investigation went inside KFC supplier Tyson's slaughterhouse to find horrible abuse even beyond what most slaughterhouses are doing, including throwing chickens, kicking them, and spitting tobacco in their eyes.
CattleHave you seen those commercials for California cheese and milk? The ones where the happy cows roam around, playing games and enjoying life? That is what a cow's life should be, but dairy cows are actually kept in small stalls all the time and are impregnated once a year so that they continue producing milk. Once their calves are born they are taken away from their mothers, causing trauma for both mom and baby.
Cattle raised for beef are fed an unnatural diet of grains and "fillers" which could be anything from expired dog food to leftover restaurant food. These animals take a ton of abuse, being castrated, burned, and having their horns ripped off, all without pain medication. And to add insult to injury, cattle also are slaughtered while still conscious.
PigsPigs are very friendly, just as fun and loving as dogs, and are also just as smart, along with being miles ahead of us at three years old. Piglets are taken away from their mothers at three weeks of age, and there begins the process of putting bacon on breakfast tables around the nation. Like chickens and turkeys, pigs are pumped full of drugs to enhance their growth potential. They then become crippled under this unnatural weight. Pigs are also abused without pain medication, having the ends of their teeth cut off to discourage biting.
Pigs are transported to slaughterhouses without any protection from the elements, often freezing to death in cold weather and dying of dehydration in the heat. Pigs are also scalded while still conscious, and one investigation found pigs being stunned with a stun gun and beaten with a hammer.
What You Can Do to HelpObviously, the easiest way to save animals is to stop eating meat. Read my article in this month's issue about getting healthy with veganism.
Animal ActivismGoing vegan wasn't enough for me. I felt like I needed to do more, so I got involved, with help from PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals). I started leaving pamphlets about animal cruelty everywhere, creating a paper trail everywhere I went, from Starbucks and Whole Foods to planes and waiting rooms. I am also organizing a protest against KFC for their supplier's inhumane treatment of chickens. To learn how to get involved, visit peta2.com (PETA's youth chapter) and kentuckyfriedcruelty.com. You can also visit my website about animal rights (web.mac.com/vegandarling). You may also ask questions or offer feedback using the form below. I'm always interested in knowing what other young activists are doing.
Thank you for reading this all the way through, and I hope it means you're ready to do your part to help save animals.